Bunnahabhain Single Malt Tasting

By / Wine + Drinks / July 28th, 2021 / 5

On June 4th, 2021 the Bunnahabhain distillery from Islay, Scotland held a virtual Bunnahabhain Day tasting on their Facebook page, having distributed Fèis Ìle 2021 sample packs of several whiskies in advance to media and other miscellaneous whisky nerds.

The tasting was hosted by Visitor Centre Manager Billy Sinclair along with Master Distiller Brendan McCarron, Master Blender and Brand Ambassador Julieann Fernandez, and Distillery Manager Andrew Brown.  They all contributed to a lively discussion about the whiskies and their various characteristics.  Those of us tasting along could ask questions and contribute tasting observations via the comments. 

Bunnahabhain Distillery is the most northerly distillery on Islay and is well known for its benchmark 12 year old unpeated single malt whisky, quite a departure from the typically peaty whiskies from the south of Islay, like Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Lagavulin.

We had the opportunity to taste three whiskies: their “benchmark” 12 year old, a 2001 finished in Marsala barrels, and a 2013 finished in Moine Bordeaux barrels.

Here are my tasting/nosing notes:

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old: ($89.75 LCBO;  $86.25 SAQ)

This 46.3% ABV malt has good complexity, and is quite fruity, with a nice mineral, earthy complexity and no peat to speak of.  Although it is non-peated, it has some of that Islay mineral complexity that is associated with being by the sea.

Bunnahabhain 2001 Marsala Finish

Only 1333 bottles were produced of this cask strength (53.6% ABV) whisky finished in Marsala butts.  Like with Sherry casks, the Marsala contributes a really smooth and warm, fruity character, with nutty, Sherry-like, dried fruit aromas and flavours. You can taste the sweet, caramel toffeeish, sherry notes, but there is still that mineral, even salty complexity.

Bunnahabhain 2013 Mòine Bordeaux Finish

Another limited edition special release, also a cask strength whisky at 59.5%, this was finished in used red Bordeaux barrels. Unlike the others, this was a peated whisky which tends to dominate over the wine notes, but it is not so much smoky as phenolic, with that medicinal, strong Islay character, that really stinks up the room in a good way! Complex, long sweet and smoky, with classic Islay flavours, including seaweedy iodine as well as wood. I can’t say I get any Bordeaux character, other than maybe some sweet fruit, but overall it is a complex, pleasing whisky.


Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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